Written by Stephanie Morrison, a friend of the St. Matthias community who enjoys the creative and exploratory practices of faith.
There is only one thing I dread; not being worthy of my sufferings.
~ Fyodor Dostoevsky 1821-1881
This Russian writer had many thought provoking words that tended to focus on the complex workings of the human mind and soul. Fyodor Dostoevsky became a known literary figure in his mid-twenties; never living a highly flourishing existence and being afflicted with various mental and physical concerns. He experienced 4 years in a Siberian prison and 4 years as a sentenced soldier for belonging to an outspoken group of socialists. He lived through his first wife and brother dying of illness, struggled with a gambling addiction that left him emotionally and financially strapped, and lived with ongoing health issues throughout his years, yet he continued creating accomplished works of literature and providing some genuinely contemplative thoughts and concepts that positively dealt with the very mental anguish that he experienced consistently throughout his life. This ennobled writer had much to offer people of his time; his words of truth have passed the test of time to be reflected by future generations.
This quoted realism came to me at a time when my heart and my faith had been stretched and strained and I was feeling some of the strong effects of not keeping my suffering in perspective. This quote is also referenced in Viktor Fankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” in a description of concentration camp martyrs who exhibited a “genuine inner achievement” by never losing their inner freedom and responding to their sufferings with controlled behaviour.
We don’t need to be in the most unimaginable of situations to be able to relate to being worthy of our sufferings. As far as I’m aware, there is no human that hasn’t suffered in one way or another, which continues all throughout our lives. Therefore, not being effected by difficult situations is not an option. We do have a choice of how we respond to those tough times and it all happens on the inside. By not letting the less-than-ideal experiences, people and mental issues take control of our words and actions, we can attain a level of worthiness that results in a stronger character, greater self-knowledge and an unbreakable spirit that survives and thrives through anything.
Life will always be full of hardships. It is much more of a benefit for everyone to make the best of it. That is so much easier said than done and I can even recall some of my own thoughts in the past that seemed to drift to
“I can’t endure another episode like this!”
However, if you can quickly jolt yourself out of that line of thinking and respond more along the lines of
“This too shall pass”
“Time heals all wounds, if I allow it”
“A negative attitude only makes this worse”
then you will be in a much better mindset to grow from difficult experiences and use them for building blocks of your character and spiritual maturity. Everyone suffers because it is a necessary element of growth, and you can use these growing opportunities to create a life where you take control of the things you can and accept the things you cannot control as they are.
It’s a matter of faith and choice.
A verse that I have written in the front of my bible, recite in my head and try to remember often:
You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. ~Philippians 4:8 (The Message)